The Foreign Service Journal - June 2017
Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  28 / 112 Next Page
Basic version Information
Show Menu
Previous Page 28 / 112 Next Page
Page Background


JUNE 2017



The challenge for the State Department is not necessarily to reduce the role of

the Department of Defense in foreign affairs, but to strengthen our own voice.

Working with the

U.S. Military:

Let’s Take Full

Advantage of Opportunities


ar is the


of politics by

other means.”

This famous

quote from

the 19th-

century Prus-

sian General

Carl von Clausewitz in

On War

(1832) is well known to officers

throughout the U.S. military. My guess is that a smaller percent-

age of Foreign Service officers are familiar with it, although it is

as relevant for us as it is for those in uniform. Why is it relevant?

Because military force is one of several elements of national

power that a nation can use to achieve its foreign policy goals.

(Others include economics and trade; information and public

diplomacy; negotiation and foreign aid.)

As we mull over and debate the “militarization of foreign

policy,” it may be useful to remember that our best statesmen

and diplomats did not shy away from the military but were well-

versed in the use of force—and could persuasively articulate

when its use was appropriate and when it was not. Ambassador

(ret.) Ron Neumann immediately comes to mind as someone

who excelled at this.

Now president of the American Academy of Diplomacy,

Amb. Neumann served as chief of mission in Afghanistan from

2005 to 2007, working closely with the U.S. military on coop-

eration between Afghanistan and Pakistan at a particularly

sensitive time. He also advocated for change in how the U.S.

government conducts foreign policy in fragile states, arguing

that the role of ambassadors should be strengthened in conflict

states in

“Fixing Fragile States

” (co-authored with retired Admi-

rals Dennis Blair and Eric Olson, and published in the Sept.-

Oct. 2014 edition of

The National Interest)


In today’s world, where the desire for immediate solutions

to complex yet frightening developments (e.g., the spread of

the Islamic State group) is so strong, it is not hard to under-

stand the temptation to focus on the use of force, despite

widespread recognition that force alone will not solve the

problem. In my view, the challenge for State is not necessarily

to weaken or reduce the role of the Department of Defense,

but to strengthen our voice and ensure that our expertise is

recognized as equally valid. One of the things we need to do to

reach that goal is encourage more officers to develop a deep


Wanda Nesbitt is currently dean of the School of

Language Studies at the State Department’s Foreign

Service Institute. She was the senior vice president of the

National Defense University from October 2013 to July

2016. During a 35-year career at State she has served as the U.S.

ambassador to Namibia, Côte d’Ivoire and Madagascar. She has

also served in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo),

France and Haiti, and worked in multiple positions in Washington,

D.C. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband, military

historian James Stejskal.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and

do not reflect the view of the Department of State, the Depart-

ment of Defense or the U.S. government.